Boeing 787 Hit by Setback With Fire-Extinguisher Wiring Flaw

Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner suffered a fresh setback after ANA Holdings Inc., the model’s biggest operator, said it discovered wiring defects in the fire-suppression system on three aircraft.

The fault, first detected on a 787 due to depart Tokyo’s Haneda airport today, would trigger the wrong extinguisher in the event of a blaze in one of the two engines, ANA said. Japan Airlines Co. recalled a 787 flying to Helsinki from Tokyo as a precaution, and Boeing said it was investigating the flaw.

“These things happen with a new aircraft,” said Robert Stallard, an analyst at RBC Capital in London with an “outperform” rating on Chicago-based Boeing. “When the airlines ground the plane or regulators start becoming involved, then it becomes something to watch out for.”

Boeing’s flagship jet, which made its commercial debut in 2011, is already under scrutiny following a fire in London last month that U.K. investigators linked to an emergency beacon. The 787 returned to service with ANA and Japan Airlines on June 1 after a global grounding spurred by a pair of meltdowns in the lithium-ion batteries on the carriers’ jets.

Boeing fell 2 percent to $104.16 at the close in New York as broader U.S. stock indexes declined. That pared the shares’ gain to 38 percent this year.

Wiring Issue

ANA’s parts were replaced in two of the jets in which the Tokyo-based carrier found the defect, which must have occurred during the manufacturing process, said Megumi Tezuka, a spokeswoman. The third aircraft will also be fixed by the end of the day, she said.

Japan Air brought back the 787 from Helsinki to Narita airport in Tokyo as a precautionary measure after being informed of the new wiring issue by the National Transport Ministry, company spokesman Seiji Takaramoto said.

The airline subsequently inspected all 10 of its 787s and found no issues, he said. Among other carriers flying Dreamliners, LOT Polish Airlines SA said its jets are flying as scheduled, while Qatar Airways Ltd. said it has had no problems and Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA said it was unaware of the issue.

United Continental Holdings Inc., the only U.S. Dreamliner operator, was inspecting its 787 fleet following “preliminary instructions from Boeing,” said Christen David, a spokeswoman.

The Chicago-based carrier plans “to complete inspections as quickly as possible with minimal impact to our operations,” David said in an e-mail.

Beacon Incident

U.S. regulators ordered Dreamliner operators to check emergency radio transmitters for wire damage after a beacon was linked to the July 12 fire in London. The Federal Aviation Administration is working with Boeing to develop instructions for the inspections, the agency said at the time.

Boeing delivered 73 Dreamliners to 13 customers through Aug. 7, the company said on its website, with more than 29,000 flights flown.

Dreamliner operators resumed services after a three-month grounding over the battery fires when authorities approved a redesign including more protection around individual cells to contain overheating. Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise was first to restart flights in April, with the Japanese carriers opting for a four-month halt as they took out ads saying the 787 was safe.

(Updates with United Airlines comment in ninth paragraph.)
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